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Archive for Sunday, July 27, 2003

Briefly

July 27, 2003

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Japan

More than 400 people injured in three strong earthquakes

Japanese soldiers brought water and blankets to weary people huddled in school gymnasiums Saturday after three powerful earthquakes rocked rural northern Japan, toppling homes and injuring more than 400 people.

The earthquakes knocked out power grids and triggered mudslides in Miyagi prefecture, a rural state about 190 miles northeast of Tokyo. The most serious temblor had a preliminary magnitude of 6.2.

A tremor measuring 5.5 struck seven hours earlier, and one of 5.3 followed several hours later. The government's meteorological agency reported more than 600 milder aftershocks continuing through the night.

No deaths were reported. National police said 421 people were reported injured -- 27 of them seriously -- with most suffering cuts and bruises from falling objects. At least 1,000 homes were damaged, police said.

Washington, D.C.

U.S. to offer $1 billion in aid to Afghanistan

The Bush administration will soon propose a $1 billion aid package for Afghanistan aimed at bolstering the government of President Hamid Karzai and countering criticism that U.S. officials have lost interest in rebuilding the country as their focus has shifted to postwar Iraq, senior administration officials said Saturday.

The $1 billion package, which more than triples the $300 million Afghanistan receives, represents new spending on Afghanistan and is designed to fund projects that can be completed within a year to have maximum impact on the lives of the Afghan people before scheduled elections in October 2004, the officials said, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

Among other things, the funds -- to be shifted from existing foreign and military aid accounts so as not to increase the deficit -- would go toward highway and school construction, other infrastructure initiatives, police training, beefed up development of the Afghan army, education projects and programs to help women enter the work force, the officials said.

New York

Federal prosecutors probing MCI on access charges

Federal prosecutors have reportedly opened an investigation into whether long-distance giant MCI defrauded other telephone companies of hundreds of millions of dollars.

Investigators are looking into reports that MCI masked long-distance calls as local calls to avoid paying special-access fees to local carriers across the country, The New York Times reported on its Web site Saturday, citing people involved in the probe.

The fees are the largest single source of MCI's costs for carrying calls and transmitting data, the newspaper said.

WorldCom Inc., which merged with MCI in 1999, changed its name to MCI earlier this year in a bid to restore its credibility after investigators uncovered an $11 billion accounting fraud.

MCI executives told the Times they believed the investigation was an effort by regional phone companies AT&T, SBC Communications and Verizon to thwart MCI's bid to emerge from bankruptcy.

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